The world needs to dig up far more minerals to meet climate goals. But mining poses environmental dangers that are bitterly dividing communities.
Minnesota’s Highway 210 threads through the tiny towns of Aitkin County, a poor and sparsely populated stretch of forests, lakes, and wetlands that reaches just into the northeastern corner of the state. A short drive off the highway, due south past the Tamarack Church, delivers you to Jackson’s Hole, the last remaining business in the unincorporated community of Lawler.
A little before noon on a Tuesday in late June, several dozen people from across the region filed into the barn-red, century-old town store turned saloon. They settled into seats around folding tables in the rear banquet room, where deer horns and a bearskin rug adorn the walls.
At the front of the room, Jessica Johnson, the community and government relations director for Talon Metals, began her pitch. Clicking through slides on a screen, Johnson paused on a rendering of a roughly 60-acre site just north of neighboring Tamarack.
The screen displayed a planned project that would stretch across a homestead and tree farm that currently grows white and Norway pines. It would include an electrical substation, a wastewater treatment plant, and a rail spur cutting through wetlands to meet the tracks in the middle of town. At its heart would be a mine.
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